1 May 2012 crhodes   » (Master)

Happy Protest Day.

Day two of ELS 2012 began with war stories from Ernst van Waning on his work as a consultant for SRI (his talk should of course not be confused with his employer's views; Pascal Costanza's opinions from yesterday were similarly disclaimed) on their AURA project. We had a confusing video-in-video demonstration, which is perhaps taking the conservative approach to the Demo Effect a little bit too far. A point that might be worth mentioning again is that Lisp is not immune to memory leaks; in the KM (warning: 1990s-compatible website) knowledge management software, many interned symbols get generated during the course of a query and do not get removed later. We've encountered this in SBCL in the past; for example, in the SBCL build itself, towards the end of the process, we compile and load PCL, then in a fresh bootstrap image just load the fasls before dumping the final image; this is so that many internal symbols created by reading the code don't end up in the final image. (Though something that has been suggested a few times is that packages should intern their symbols in a hash table which is weak: dear cleverweb, is there any way in which this can be detected? Think like pfdietz).

After coffee, and surprisingly packaged filled croissants, Marco Benelli gave us his experiences of using Scheme (specifically Gambit-C) in industrial automation. There were some interesting constraints – the approach had to support uClinux as well as more full-fat distributions, and... exotic architectures like sh. After that came Gunnar Völkel, talking about Algorithm Engineering with Clojure ("Algorithm Engineering" here seemed to mean the cycle of algorithm design, analysis, implementation and evaluation); the start of the talk was about implementing tracing and profiling, using a name-based registry before function definition to specify interceptions which wrap function implementation, which worried me because it seemed like a description of what should already exist (the lack of documented support for advice/fwrappers in SBCL notwithstanding). After that, we had a description of their team's Experiment Definition Language, used to generate code in an Experiment Setup Language, which then performs a whole experimental run (of the order of weeks) for various different parameters. I'm not convinced about the composability of the interception design; one issue is that since it overrides the defining forms, it is automatically incompatible with any similar extension (just as SERIES is incompatible with SCREAMER and Lexicons: each of them wants to own defun) – another is that, because the interceptions modify the source code, there's no sensible ordering: one of the example functions was both traced and profiled, which means that either the profiling code becomes traced (where the user is probably not interested in the execution of the otherwise-invisible profiling code) or the tracing code becomes profiled (which detracts from the utility of the profiling data).

One more long lunch break later, and we're into the afternoon iteration: Irène Durand talking about enumerators, and Alessio Stalla about do+, both dealing with ways of structuring iteration. Irène's taxonomy of enumerators might bear closer attention, while Alessio's "I don't hate loop" polemic against the use of a code walker in an iteration construct (iterate) seemed to be a totally reasonable point. There was some interesting probing of the limitations as well as the extensibility of the design – Pascal Costanza brought up the fact that loop allows e.g. if foo collect bar into quux else nconc baz into quux (forgive the attack of metasyntosis), while this variety of accumulation function into the same accumulator appears not possible in the do+ design.

Lightning talks: a virtual filesystem based on queries; return-with-dynamic-extent; HIV as recursive immune system process; pathnames (gah! pathnames!); high-performance network appliances; interoperability choices; and homoiconicity (Didier gives highly-engaging lightning talks: "musical notation is Tuning-complete"). Then announcements (a big thanks to Marco Antoniotti, Franjo Penar and his local team), dinner, bed.

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